Letters from the March 25, 2006, issue of Science News

Bee movie?

In the article about using harmonic reflected signals to track bees (“The Trouble with Chasing a Bee,” SN: 1/14/06, p. 23), I thought it was interesting to note that the original technology was created by the Russians as a spy device. The technology is still being used for a form of spying.

Dwight Elvey
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Birdy gurdy

I was surprised to read nothing about the timing of the songs when the birds are separated by distance (“Just Duet: Biologists puzzle over birds’ ensemble vocalizations,” SN: 1/28/06, p. 58). The ABCD duet would become A—BC—D (where the dashes represent the time delay due to distance) to the male and AB—CD to the female. The duet could be a distance-measurement tool for pairs wanting to keep track of how far apart they are.

Joe Heagney
Arlington, Wash.

When I read the article, the behavior of my pet yellow-naped Amazon, Wellington, suddenly became less surprising. He often likes to whistle the four phrases of “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?” However, sometimes he indicates, by pausing after phrase A, that he wants me to whistle phrase B. He then whistles phrase C and pauses for me to whistle phrase D. Other times, if I whistle phrases A and C, he whistles phrases B and D.

Andrea Borr
La Jolla, Calif.

In the wild, yellow-naped Amazon parrots perform duets in which a male and a female take turns calling, says Timothy Wright of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.—S. Milius

Missed step

“First Steps: Modern science investigates the initial stages of how fossils form” (SN: 1/28/06, p. 56) made no mention of the Clarno fossil beds and others nearby in north-central Oregon. Everything from pollen to midsize extinct mammals has been perfectly preserved and looks exactly like freshly exposed matter, not fossil rock. The living matter was entrapped by an enormous mudslide.

Herman Gelbach
Normandy Park, Wash.

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